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How to be a Greener Tourist

Christmas and New Year have come and gone and it’s that time of year when we start to think about booking our summer holidays to give us something to look forward to through the months ahead.

No one is saying that we don’t all deserve a holiday now and then but we are all under a moral duty to consider to the environmental impact of everything we do and holidays are a major contributor to many peoples’ carbon footprint. So what can we do to lessen the impact?

Think About Holidaying in the UK

International travel, because of the sheer distances involved, adds greatly to our carbon footprints. Although it is tempting to escape to a better climate, there are many interesting and fun places to visit right here in the UK if you want to take a holiday while keeping down your carbon miles.

Although we tend to take it for granted, we really do have some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. Why not hire a cottage in the Lake District, take a beach holiday in Devon or Cornwall, hire a barge and cruise the Norfolk Broads, go camping in the Dales or visit the Highlands of Scotland?

If you prefer a faster pace, remember that people from every continent on Earth visit London for its culture, shopping, architecture and nightlife and have it right on our doorstep. What about Edinburgh, which has the perfect combination of modern vitality and ancient culture, or Dublin?

Some of these places don’t necessarily lend themselves to a fortnight’s stay so why not combine a few mini-breaks? It won’t take more than a few hours to get from one place to the next and there’s no flights or border controls to worry about.

If you are staying in the UK and if it is practical; try to travel by coach or train rather than by car.

Do You Really Have to Fly to Your Destination?

Flying is easily the most damaging form of travel in terms of carbon emissions. Unfortunately when it comes to travelling outside of the UK is it usually the quickest and most convenient. Remember though that you are on holiday; are you really in such a rush to arrive? Travelling by road, rail or sea can be just as much fun as the destination itself. You’ll get to see so much more and it can be like a mini holiday in itself.

Travelling 1,000 miles by air (about the distance from Manchester to Rome) will increase your personal carbon footprint by around 0.68 tonnes. Travelling the same distance on a diesel engine train would cost just 0.25 tonnes. It would be significantly less on an electric train. Even travelling by coach would be a big improvement on air travel.

Most of Western Europe can be easily reach by train via the Channel Tunnel and it will often be cheaper and more comfortable.

Try to Keep Luggage to a Minimum

How you travel to your destination is the most important factor but there are other considerations. The more weight a vehicle, any vehicle, has to carry the more fuel it will need to use and the more carbon it will produce, so keeping your luggage to a minimum will make a difference.

It is tempting to pack way more than you need when you go on holiday. Not only will this be more inconvenient for you, and possibly lead to you paying an excess if you exceed your baggage allowance, there will be an environmental cost. Try to pack only the things you will actually use and remember that the UK is not the only country that has shops!

If you are going to a holiday resort then you will almost certainly be able to buy things like sun cream, insect repellent and toiletries when you arrive. Besides possibly being cheaper than in the UK, you will no doubt want to explore and get your bearings when you arrive anyway and let’s face it, would you rather be fighting your way round the supermarket on a Saturday afternoon back home to get the things you need or strolling though sunny shopping precinct or colourful market on holiday?!

Some hotel rooms will have things like hair dryers and irons in the room so check this with your travel agent before packing these items. Sandals and flip flops are often best bought abroad.

Leave Unwanted Items for the Hotel Staff

If you have things like toiletries, footwear, towels or any other items that you don’t think you’ll use again, don’t just throw them away, or worse, pack them to be thrown away when you get home. Give them to the hotel staff. Particularly in the poorer countries these items will often be very much appreciated.

If you don’t feel comfortable approaching the staff because you are afraid you might offend then just leave items in your room.

Don’t Be Wasteful With All Inclusive

When on an all inclusive holiday it is tempting to go over the top and pile up a plate with way more than you can realistically expect to eat. Remember that you can go back to the food as often as you like so why not try getting a little bit of something at a time?

Carbon Offsetting

Whatever you do, particularly if you do have to fly, your holiday will have some kind of impact on your carbon footprint. This effect can however be offset by investing money in a project that reduces carbon emissions. Offsetting should only be used as last resort, after you have exhausted other options such as avoiding or reducing emissions.

There are a number of projects around the world which look to offset emissions. You should look for the ones with the Government’s Quality Assurance Mark. These schemes have been investigated to ensure that they actually reduce emissions at the levels claimed. Some schemes that claim to be carbon offsetting are sufficiently profitable that they would go ahead anyway and these should not qualify.

For a list of approved carbon offsetting schemes see the Act On CO2 website.

1 Comment to How to be a Greener Tourist

  1. CR's Gravatar CR
    June 30, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    This is a great set of advice. It’s great to think that we can continue to reduce our carbon footprint even as we travel to other countries by following a few simple steps!

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